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Are Consumers Cutting Back on the Cutbacks?

While cutbacks in spending have been the norm since the economy went haywire, some people have been cautiously backing away from those austerities. An AdweekMedia/Harris Poll, fielded last month, gives a look at who has been cutting and uncutting.

Seventy-nine percent of respondents said they've made cuts in their spending in the past year, but the number saying they've made "a lot of cuts" was far lower (32 percent). There were significant disparities among age groups on this matter. The poll's 45-54-year-olds were the most likely to say they've made a lot of cuts in their spending (40 percent) and those 55-plus the least likely (25 percent). The figure was 31 percent for the 18-34-year-olds and 36 percent for the 35-44s. In a breakdown by income, there was little variation in the "lot of cuts" tally for those making less than $35,000 (38 percent), $35,000-49,999 (34 percent) or $50,000-74,999 (36 percent). But the figure fell sharply (to 26 percent) in the $75,000-plus cohort.

Has talk of a bottoming-out in the economy led people who'd pared their spending to ease up on this economizing? Respondents who reported having reduced their spending were queried on this, and 24 percent said they have recently "started to increase your personal spending," though just 4 percent have gone all the way back to their old spending levels. The 18-34-year-olds were the most likely to say they've eased up on their austerities (29 percent), with the 45-54—year-olds close behind (28 percent). Many fewer 35-44-year-olds said they've recently started spending more again (16 percent, with the 55-and-older cohort coming in at 22 percent).

Upper-income consumers are a bit more likely than consumers in general to have begun spending more. Among the survey's $75,000-plusers who reported having made recession-induced cuts in their spending in the past year, 28 percent said they've been spending more recently—including 6 percent who've returned to their spending levels of the good old days. Add these people to the 21 percent of $75,000-plusers who say they didn't cut spending in the first place and you have a sizable niche of robust spenders, bless their upper-income hearts.

--Nielsen Business Media